The Pat-Down

The Boston Celtics have had quite the steady season so far.

And if you ask any Celtics fan, that could probably be one of the biggest things that they were hoping for this year. The last two years have been a wild roller coaster ride filled with joy, fear, puke and sadness.
It all started in the offseason of 2017 with the team signing all-star Gordon Hayward and trading for all-star point guard Kyrie Irving. There was a ton of hype that came with these offseason moves, which all came crashing down in the first game of the regular season, as Hayward horrifically broke his ankle.
Irving carried the team in his absence, going on a ridiculous stretch to start the season. However, he was unable to complete the season, as he struggled with knee issues.

Several rookies were pushed into key roles, specifically Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown, and all exceeded expectations. The team eventually went to the Eastern Conference Finals, and almost beat Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but fell in seven games.

Even though they lost the series, one of my favorite highlights of all-time was when Tatum dunked on James, as I love Tatum and despise James.

That run to the conference finals captivated the hearts of Celtics fans. The young players in Rozier, Tatum and Brown showed a ton of maturity and heart during the playoffs, and with Hayward and Irving returning from injury, many fans believed that now was their time.

Only it wasn’t. The team struggled to find a balance throughout the season, and it was clearly visible that members on the team did not like each other. Irving was main cause of the turmoil, as his moods would change constantly about how he felt about the team. Several other underlying issues were going on as well, but Irving’s mood was the main problem.

After Irving packed his bags and moved to Brooklyn during the 2019 offseason, I didn’t really know what to think. To make matters worse, reliable big man Al Horford decided to take his talents to Philly and play for the 76ers. But thankfully, the Celtics signed Kemba Walker and retooled this team to compete in 2020. And they have certainly done that.

As of Feb. 13, the team sits in third place in the Eastern Conference. They have played a fun style of basketball, and have competed well with the best teams in the league.

After a year in which he struggled, Tatum has really bounced back, leading the team in scoring with 22.1 points per game, and adding close to seven rebounds and three assists. His shot selection was an issue last year, and for the most part, he has worked on it, taking more efficient shots at better spots on the floor. He can still have bad field goal percentages, but I can’t complain, as his improvement gives me confidence in his game going forward.

Another struggling forward last year was Hayward. Many thought that he would be 100 percent healthy heading into the 2019 season. He was, but after suffering an injury as he did, he didn’t have the confidence to compete at an elite level.

This year, he has looked like his old self, averaging 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. He had a minor setback in the early part of the season with a hand injury, but I expect him to be a key contributor as this team finishes out the season.

We have been blessed with Walker’s presence this season, giving the team strengths that they desperately needed. He’s averaging nearly 22 points and leads the team in assists with five per game. What he gives the team that the stats don’t show is the positive energy he brings every night. You can tell that he loves being here, and it spreads to the Celtics roster. Without him on the team, they would be nowhere near where they are today.

Even with these positives, one lingering issue they have is at the center position. They are weak at that position and I was hoping that GM Danny Ainge would have traded for one at the trade deadline, which he didn’t. The centers that we have now are all right, but I have no clue who’s going to be able to get stops against any of the top centers in this league. Playoffs are quickly approaching, and one of the centers currently on the roster is going to have to step up.

This is the first time in a while that I have felt really good about a Celtics team, but time will tell if this year’s team is capable of making a run to the NBA Finals.